I’m not ashamed to admit that my daughter was only a few weeks old before I handed her over to my parents for an overnighter. It was for a wedding. I wasn’t nervous. I had an easy baby and parents who I completely trusted. I remember having to pump breastmilk in the bridal suite during the reception and my friends laughing at me.
I’m beginning to think I am in the minority with this cavalier attitude. Many parents hesitate to leave their baby overnight. Feeling guilty or worried about being separated from your baby is completely normal. But there are ways to ease your concerns so that if something comes up unexpectedly, you’re prepared.
Find someone you trust
The more comfortable parents are with the babysitter they have selected, the more secure they will feel knowing that their baby is in good hands,” says psychologist Sara Dimerman. “Most new parents select their own parents or a sibling as the first overnight sitter for their baby. However, even knowing the sitter well and trusting in them, it’s completely normal for new parents to be worried and to feel as if something is missing when they first leave their baby to stay out overnight.”
Take your time
Ease into an overnight stay by leaving your baby with a caregiver for shorter periods of time, while you and your spouse grab dinner, or you head to the gym. Sticking close to home can help reduce the separation anxiety.
Host a sleepover
When you plan your night away, invite your sitter to stay in your home, rather than sending your baby to a strange house. Sleeping in their own bassinet or crib will make the night go more smoothly. Plus, you’ll know that your home is stocked with baby gear and emergency supplies.
Recognize the benefits
A night away with adult company can reduce stress and really recharge your battery.
Hamilton, Ont., mom Sarah Lennox knew that a night away from her newborn was exactly what she needed. “Leah was two weeks old when I left her with my neighbours, because I just needed a good night’s sleep,” she says. “I had postpartum depression and was exhausted. I had a C-section and my stitches became infected. My neighbours are amazing people and loved Leah, so they offered, and I accepted. I was just next door, so I felt if she needed me, I was right there. I got a good night’s sleep, and it rejuvenated me.” Sarah loves to share this story because she says she “refuses to feel guilty about it.”
Don’t push yourself
If it’s anxiety, and not guilt, that is keeping you from a night away, Sara says leaving “may be more stressful than staying at home. In this case, I would encourage a parent not to push him or herself into doing something for fear of what others might think, but to follow one’s heart. I’m not convinced that it’s essential that parents spend overnights away from their children while they are still young, but they should consider spending some time away to recharge their batteries and to help their children learn that they can manage without mom and dad around all the time.
“Once children start going to school, they begin to learn this as a result of having a teacher and other adults caring for them. As your child grows older, helping him or her learn to cope for short, and then longer, periods without you, is a good idea.”
Saying goodbye isn’t easy
“The first and only time my daughter Emma had an overnight was two nights after I gave birth to my second baby. Emma was already sleeping in bed when I went into labour and my parents came over to watch her. The following night, she slept at my parents’ house. She was two. I cried a lot. But also, hormones.” –Jackie S.
“My daughter spent the night with my parents at 10 months. I cried. I was sad that she was leaving me for the first time. I was happy that my parents were taking her for the first time away. She asked to go with them so I think I was more sad that I wasn’t ready to be away from her.” –Josie L.
“I’ve been away from my five year old, Brooklyn, overnight twice (once was when I had her sister, Kennedy), but both times she was with the hubby. I have never been away from Kennedy and she is three. My girls are actually both horrible sleepers and are pretty dependent on me at night (Brooklyn not so much anymore). Also my husband was raised never spending a night away from his family as a kid so he doesn’t feel right leaving them when they are young.” -Tiffany G.
“I have yet to leave my son with a babysitter since he is only six months old and exclusively breastfed; however, the way I see it, almost everyone will suffer from separation anxiety during the first time that they leave their child with a babysitter. It is inevitable, since most of us spend 24/7 with our children.” –Hema O
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February/March 2016.